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Giving more meaning to independence

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SWIMMING AGAINST THE CURRENT

By DR. JESUS ESTANISLAO

Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao

Dr. Jesus P. Estanislao

It has been a long epic struggle, our fight for independence.

Our forefathers of the 1896 revolution focused on throwing away the yoke of Spanish colonial rule. They did go a long distance towards succeeding, only to be frustrated in the end by having the prize snatched away from them.

The Americans then imposed themselves upon us. But through the political process, those who came before us sent a clear, unequivocal signal each time they voted in massive numbers for “immediate and complete independence.” Even as this promise had already been made to us, still other invaders — this time, the Japanese — made the process of gaining independence more challenging. Nonetheless, we insisted that our independence be formally recognized on schedule, and as promised on July 4, 1946.

Since then, at least according to form, and increasingly in substance as well, we have been taking charge of our national affairs. We have been independent, and most of us would not want it any other way.

Now, the challenge as we build our Dream Philippines is to give more meaning and ever-greater substance to our being an independent nation. It has been a most exciting ride, moving forward, since 1946. Indeed, how can we deliver a country to future generations of Philippines, one that is at least much closer to our dreams?

This is where Paul Dumol gives us a timely reminder from no less than our national hero, Jose Rizal. The reminder:

“On December 12, 1896, Rizal wrote some notes for his lawyer. In them, he said that he believed it was necessary to attain material prosperity first before one could educate in democracy. On December 15, Rizal wrote his famous open letter to Filipinos opposing the revolution then going on. (This letter was never published by the Spaniards.) In the letter, he noted how he demanded education as a pre-requisite to independence. He mentioned in addition the importance of work and civic virtues.”

We owe a debt of gratitude to Paul Dumol, who — when asked to contribute to a set of strategic priorities we need to focus on — gets us back to Rizal. How different our ride on the pathway of independence since 1946 would have been, if we had given more heed to what Rizal had given us as a guideline. Indeed, fighting to raise the level of GDP and providing material prosperity for our people are very important priorities for an independent, democratic nation. But of even greater importance is the education of our people: it is here where we have to invest a great deal of our resources. Education, equipping with knowledge, skills, ideals, and the ever-greater insistence on civic virtues being actually observed and practiced are essential prerequisites for our people to enjoy the fruits of independence on a sustained basis. Our human resource, invested with these, would be our most important asset as an independent nation.

Paul Dumol concludes that these are “some strategic priorities inspired by Rizal”:

“Material prosperity is important, and in relation to this, Rizal stressed the importance of work, the training of Filipinos in different occupations.”

“The education of the youth in specific values is important — braveness, toughness, and daring.”

“A third step: the education of everyone in civic virtues.”

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